I loved my Mormon faith, but I could also see its flaws—how the sexism embedded in its culture, policies and doctrines were affecting my life. I had more than complaints; I had ideas! I wanted to contribute to my church, to make it a better place, but my input was not wanted because I am a woman.
The Exponent gave me a forum to air my views, but I continued to sign my posts with only my first name.
It wasn’t my fault that I was scared. I grew up in a culture of fear. People who dared to publicly discuss the church’s flaws were cast out of it when I was still a child. When I reached adulthood, I thought I was the only Mormon in the world who cared about sexism because people with questions stopped asking them. It wasn’t safe.
A little over a year ago, Kate Kelly invited Mormon women to try again. We could be bold. We could ask for what we want. We could break taboos that silence us, speaking out in public instead of limiting ourselves to semi-anonymous cyberspace.
We could use our real names.
Mormons accuse each other of “going public” as if it were a sin, as if the phrase from the Book of Mormon, “All is well in Zion” were a script we should follow, instead of an example of “carnal security” that “cheateth [our] souls.” (2 Nephi 28:21) We hope that by keeping our opinions to ourselves, our faith community will appear to be perfectly happy. We are living advertisements, wooing potential converts. We can’t actually address our problems while we are busy hiding them, but we hope that no one else will notice our issues because we don’t mention them in public. Building Zion takes a backseat to keeping up the appearance of Zion. We lay aside scriptural admonition to “lay aside…all guile, and hypocrisies” (1 Peter 2:1).
We even punish “going public” as if it were a sin. Enforcing silence through church discipline isolates the problem, but these so-called problems are people, children of God, members of our congregations entrusted to our ministry.
We are isolating people.
We sacrifice our own children in our quest to feign contentment. We let them suffer, believing that they are all alone, the only crazy people in the whole church who see any problems, because the only voices they hear complaining are the ones in their own heads.
While this culture of fear and silence hurts everyone, Mormon women are particularly isolated when public discourse is silenced. Mormon men may hope for opportunities to enact reform from within the church hierarchy. At the least, they have peers, members of their own quorums, within these decision-making positions. The risk of speaking out is particularly high for women because women are disciplined by panels made up entirely of the opposite sex, may not read the rules and procedures by which they may be punished, and are not afforded the same protections that men enjoy. Women are more expendable than men because so few women are needed to fill church callings.
We are sacrificing human souls and our own integrity because of the faulty assumption that potential converts are looking for a church of Stepford wives. I challenge this assumption. I believe that potential converts would prefer a congregation where reformers may stage peaceful demonstrations; problems are identified, discussed and resolved; and people respect each other while vigorously and publicly disagreeing. I highly doubt that people are looking for a church that punishes people for seeking reform by casting them out from their congregations, invalidating their saving ordinances, and breaking their eternal bonds to their families. Sexism itself drives people away from the church, not talking about sexism. The church could be more attractive to potential converts if we addressed sexism and made our faith a safe place to be female.
Instead, the cycle begins again, and now Kate Kelly and others find themselves selected to be cast out for breaking the silence. Kate Kelly’s stake president assures her, “You are not required to change your thinking or the questions you may have in your own mind, but you need to make it a private matter.” (Emphasis is mine.)
In support of Kate Kelly and in defiance of this renewed attempt to silence and isolate Mormon women, I have updated my Exponent profile to my full name. I am done cowering. I will not be silenced.
Today, I have two questions for you, my Mormon feminist sisters and brothers: “Will we be silenced again?” and “What is your name?”